Berkshire School is feeling pretty positive about its burgeoning partnership with British squash legend, Nick Matthew, and it's not just because he hails from Sheffield, England, though that is one of the things about the School that caught his eye. He might have even used the phrase "meant to be" during a conversation in between coaching sessions in the Soffer Athletic Center.
Matthew, three-time winner of both the British and World Opens, has also been coaching at summer camps for the past ten years. He runs his own academy at home in Sheffield, where he works part-time with players as young as eight, up to young professionals in their twenties. He spent the weekend of January 26-28 on campus, taking the time to work with each Berkshire squash player individually, while also observing and instructing both the girls' and boys' teams. He led warm-ups, observed challenge matches, and generally got onto the courts of the Soffer Athletic Center with each pair of players, the better to work on their game.
After watching him play in the Tournament of Champions in NYC, which Berkshire sponsored for the first time, Berkshire Squash was excited to get a chance to work so intensively with Matthew over the course of the weekend.
The students gave him an unequivocal thumbs-up. "Each player on both teams is different," said Kate Whitman '19, "but he was able to make each of us a better player in only two sessions. I feel so grateful for Nick's help, and am very excited to work with him when he comes back to Berkshire."
Boys varsity coach Jasper Turner was struck by "how quickly Nick learned my player's names, how committed he was to developing a relationship with each of them, and how effective he was in finding coaching points for individuals and the team. In short, he was fantastic."
When asked about his impressions of Berkshire's program, Matthew shared the love. "This is a fantastic team and a fantastic setting. I've been watching the kids, and they've clearly been coached well. They've all got really great fundamentals, great court awareness, and the passion for the sport that's been coached into them by their coaches. I'm here to sort of add to what those guys are doing.
About Berkshire's coaches, you can see that there's no ego there; you can see that they want to learn from me as much as the kids do. But I'm here to learn from them, too because they're the ones with the relationships to the kids. I'm only just meeting them, just learning to talk to them. I think I know what to say. Berkshire's coaches are teaching me how to say it."
When asked about his coaching philosophy, he grinned. "The key thing is relationships," he answered. "It's okay to get the kids to be better at squash, but that's a total bonus in helping them to grow as human beings and as people. I've always had that sort of relationship with my coach. I think he's the best in the world, David Pearson, but he's always coached me as the person first, not just the player."
It's clear, both watching him work with students and then speaking with him about his coaching, that relationships are at the heart of everything he does. Girls varsity coach AJ Kohlhepp summed up the collaboration this way: "Nick's knowledge of and passion for the sport are comprehensive; his ability to connect with our kids is all the more impressive given that he has spent two decades chasing personal excellence on the squash court. It is impossible to understate the impact of Nick's partnership with Berkshire School, and I'm excited to be here while it's happening."
Looking forward, Matthew is excited to return this summer to head up the Nick Matthew Academy at Berkshire School from July 15 to August 3.